Wenger spotted with big gun shooting himself in the foot… again

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The first goal went Wigan’s way in the shape of a penalty. Charles N’Zogbia broke into the box, Kozzer stuck a leg out, he went over … the ref blew up. Many are saying it was a dive, for me, it was very close. Once again, it’s a shoddy piece of defending from our centre back. More importantly, where the hell was Eboue in this situation, or more to the point, why would you rest your only fit left back and put a right back who ALWAYS struggles at left back in his place? The penalty was rifled home by Watson.

The next half an hour was absolutely diabolical. The players lacked focus, match practice and the know how to dismantle a plucky Wigan side. Thankfully Diaby picked up an injury and Jack Wilshere managed to find his way onto the pitch. You really have to question the worth of keeping Diaby about. He’s hugely inconsistent when he is fit… and being fit really is a rarity. He’s never had a good season, yet we place so much importance on him as a first teamer. A waste of time.

Arshavin went from zero to hero after he acrobatically turned in a saved Nik Bendtner shot. 1o minutes later he was at it again when he picked up the ball in the middle of the park, whizzed round a few Wigan players, slipped Nik in who was on hand to slot home for what we hoped was the winner.

The second half started like Wenger had shown the boys a few card tricks at half time. They came out with hardly any focus or drive, seemingly content to just play out for 2-1. Not the mentality I would have taken with a defence as shambolic as ours.

Arshavin went close but was denied by a good Al’Habsi block.

N’Zogbia set the warning light off when he forced a good save from Fabianski. The Frenchman was causing alsorts of problems until he decided to head butt Wilshere. He was sent off, you hoped the game was over, but sadly, it wasn’t.

Wigan won a corner. Arsenal set up for it with virtually no one communicating with each other. The corner was flighted to the back post, Fabianski thought about it and didn’t go for it, Sagna and Koscielny kind of followed the ball, Rodallega nodded back, Squillaci wasn’t goal side of his man and he bundled it home for their equaliser.

Typically, we’d conceded from a set piece (50% of our conceded goals come from set pieces).

Wenger, despite seeing his team struggle, only made substitutions in the 84th minute. Theo and Nasri were brought on to shake things up, which they did but it was to no avail. We dropped 2 crucial points in the Premiership battle against relegation fodder and Wenger once again showed himself up as a man who can’t be trusted to make the right decisions.

There will be plenty of people banging the, ‘it’s not such a bad result’ drum this morning, there always is, however, I think they’re missing the point. Dropping points has a psychological impact on the team. Putting a winning sequence going was of paramount importance. Capitalising on dropped United points was also important and we failed to do it.

Why make 8 changes to the starting line up? Did Ancellotti, Ferguson or Redknapp do that for their teams? Of course they didn’t. Perhaps that’s why United fans didn’t have the same reaction to their draw as Arsenal fans have to last nights farce.

Our players didn’t need a rest, they already had one after the Stoke game was cancelled. If resting is so important, why don’t we train less like United, Spurs and Chelsea? What is the point in having the youngest team in the Universe if their fitness is poorer than older teams? Wenger is the man who has said on numerous occasions that making more than 3 changes to a squad in a summer is disruptive. If he sees that, why can’t he see making 8 changes to a starting line up is probably going to end in tears?

People will point out that I was full of praise after the Chelsea game and now I’m not. Well, of course I’m not. The Chelsea game was about superb selection, the right mentality and great tactics. Last night was about over cautious team selection, jiggery pokery in the extreme and a lack lustre performance.

I could accept 3 changes from the weekend, but 8? What the hell was he thinking? He disrespected Wigan and he disrespected our title challenge. How can Wenger not share the same winning mentality the fans do?

We’re still up there in the mix but we’ve got a coach who is making silly mistakes when there is no pressure to make them. Yesterdays team selection was almost a show of petulance from a coach who still refuses to believe there is a huge amount of deadwood in the squad. Here are the mistakes…

  • Dropping your best defender in the air against a team who toppled you from set pieces last year.
  • Starting far too many players who weren’t match fit
  • Making subs too late in the game when it was obvious we were struggling
  • Playing Nik Bendtner outwide when he’s clearly a striker
  • Playing a right back at left back
  • Admitting that his players don’t communicate from corners.

We’ve conceded 22 goals and kept 4 clean sheets in 19 games. This off the back of a promise to sort out the defence in the summer. It’s not good enough and we’re kidding ourselves if we think defending like that for the next month will leave us in the mix for the title. Wenger needs to admit he made mistakes signing cheap foreign imports and get his cheque book out and remedy his errors before he blows the best chance he’s had in 6 seasons to win the league.

Before I go, I’ll leave you with this Wenger pearler.

‘I felt we produced an outstanding performance and we are frustrated not to have won the game.’

Am I being blinded by the wool Wenger has just pulled over my eyes?

Here are some additional comments on the game from the Grovers.

Zorro

Eboue at LB? WTF is wrong with Clichy, as much as I want glass ankles Mk II to take over, I would rather Gael than EE.

Fabianksi made agreat save just before the goal after some very average defending from several players, but he was nowhere for the goal.

Squid was poor tonight, why oh why was he wrong side of the guy for the goal, he had no chance once he was on the wrong side, he was either going to head it in or his man would have.

Gambon

We are on course to concede 44 goals and keep 8 cleansheets.

Since 02/03 on average you need to keep 19 cleansheets and concede 24 to win the pl.

Patthegooner

I am not going to be too critical of Wenger’s changes tonight, these are 1st team squad players who could and should have done better.

I am critical of his lack of nonce in changing it when it looked like they were creeping back into the game though, and sadly it is a trait we see from him over and over again.

I would not even mind so much if he learnt from it, but when you hear his post match, it is like he sees a whole different game.

Keyser

Yes we should be looking for penalty decisions. Look for everything you f*cking can from the game, people whack skippy over Fergie and his teams, they’ll do everything they possibly can to win.

You don’t stand there and accept it when you know it’s wrong, do something about it.

I think in all seriousness that’s transmitted to the players now. Diaby was right, there simply isn’t enough fan pressure.

David

I cant agree we need to up our c*ntitude.

We up the c*ntivity and the refs take it upon themselves to protect the home team.

Take the Evra case from last year.

Was very proud of my team for the rotational fouling but the ref started handing out yellow cards for first time offenses.

We get nothing.

But more importantly we also shoot ourselves in the foot.

Wenger is brilliant at shooting himself in the foot.

Finally, a video that sums up being an Arsenal fan from Dan & Telarse

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Wigan up tonight, a big win and Arsenal go top!

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If we play the same type of team tonight, by that I mean no Denilson or no player that doesn’t chase every ball down like their lives depended on it, then we will breeze our way to the top of the league, don’t forget, this lot even lost to the chavs 6 nil!

We need to fight for every ball and not just in selected games when we are being written off, when Wenger had his smug ‘I told you so’ grin on after the chav game my blood boiled, if his team fought like this in every game we would be 12 points clear and coasting, and that has to be the coaches job, if this is the reason he won’t buy because they do this on the training ground then we need to see it every game, that’s why they get so well paid.

A performance like the chav one against Barcelona and we’ll go through, we have power and finishing in our ranks if they unleashed it, trouble is we so often go back to crab football and that will never win a title, if he’s learned anything in the last 6 trophy-less years it’s that, not to mention the crowd noise, that’s what happens boss, we sing when we’re happy, if this team did that every week we wouldn’t be so pissed off when you don’t spend money.

Tell Arshavin unless he starts putting in a shift then we’ll sell him, and I love Andre, but he needs to become a team player, if Niklas bendtner wants to get recognition then he needs to start doing what Baliotelli does when he gets his chance and start knocking them in.

This team can show us tonight if we have enough to save buying in the window, having Frimpong in the wings to toe Song up the arse is good business, buying a Mascerano would be unbelievable, but I can’t see it, the thing is who cares who’s cup tied, it’s only one comp and the chances are we won’t go all the way, play like they did on Tuesday and they will, good luck tonight boys, I am beginning to believe we could just pull this off, win tonight and we are level on points, win big and we are top, go Arsenal, go!

Have a great day Grovers, tonight we’ll see if Tuesday was a fluke, or if it was the beginning of the end of project youth!


11 lions on the pitch have got me dreaming… Match Report + Ratings

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Well, it’s been a long time coming… but today Grovers, I get to write the match report I’ve been dreaming about for a while!

Yep, the one where I tell you about the time Chelsea came to the Emirates and we dished them out the spanking of their lives. Yesterday I asked for a massive performance from everyone, boy did I get it! The fans were immense, the team selection was immense and the performance was stunning.

Before the game I’d stated that there were a few big decisions to be made. The keeper, the centre back pairing and the strikers. Wenger bottled the keeper situation, which I was slightly miffed about… however, he was bold with the striker choice, going with RvP, he was bold with the defence, going with JD and Koscielny and he was even bolder with his wide man electing to drop the ever-present Andrey Arshavin for Theo Walcott.

I think I speak for everyone when I say excitement before the game was at an all time high with that line up!

We started well, like we were hungry for a victory. No danger of a slow beginning. We hit the wings almost immediately, passing with speed and fluency. Song played RvP in early doors, the Dutchman was offside which made his Johnny Wilkinson conversion over the bar acceptable..

A shift in ‘on pitch’ power was witnessed after Robin was smashed over by Malouda. The freekick was about 32 yards out, the Dutchman was told to move over, Nasri instead launching a stinging shot at Cech.

Arsenal’s passing started to become a little sloppy mid first half, however, it was clear the boys were fighting for their day in the sun. Jack Wilshere particularly impressing in the middle of the park with some crunching tackle. The Chav’s were being shown up as long ball merchants as usual, a pretty embarrassing tactic for a £140million wage bill!

Robin had the crowd on their feet when he crunched Essien over… hilarious.

I was wondering why we were playing through the middle when Chelsea were giving us nothing in those areas. However, the cracks were starting to show after Nasri played a 1-2 with RvP and blasted over. We were starting to find holes in their make shift defence.

Nasri picked up a Sagna pass on the edge of the box, chipped the keeper but was denied after Cech clamoured back and pushed it over his bar.

Song picked the ball up outside the area, passed to Wilshere, the Englishman toe poked it intricately through to Cesc who was munched over by Malouda, Song instead nipped in and buried the loose ball into the far corner. We were one up, the ref played the advantage! What a super goal!

The second half started, the only change was that Chelsea decided to bring on Diaby’s younger brother, Ramires.

It didn’t take long for goal 2 to come. Robin Van Persie received the ball quite a way out, Essien powered in with the tackle, accidentally playing an alert Theo through, he latched onto it, cut it back to Cesc who was on hand to pass into the empty net! 2-0 and we were in dream land!

Two minutes later, Theo capitalised on a poor John Terry pass, laid the ball off to Cesc, he returned a perfect through ball which Theo clinically finished into the bottom corner. Three up with barely 55 minutes on the clock! Amazing!

Our joy was short-lived, well, kind of. Chelsea won a freekick up the other end. Drogba fizzed it into the box, Koscielny didn’t challenge Ivanovic and he nodded home to give them a customary goal. I think the keeper should have done better there, you either stay rooted to the spot or challenge the ball… he wandered into no mans land.

This is normally the point we capitulate. Not tonight, we gathered our thoughts and played the remainder of the half out with professionalism and intelligence. Wenger didn’t have a Denilson to bring on today. Instead his subs consisted of Chamakh, Rosicky and Diaby. I’m far more happier seeing those come onto the pitch. All Chelsea had to bring on was Kakuta. Pretty funny really!

We won the battle in the middle of the park for the rest of the game. Rosicky even had the chance to hit the post!

The evening was all the more impressive considering the amount of decisions given Chelsea’s way by Mark Clattenburg!

I didn’t care, the crowd were our 12th man tonight, exceptional!

After thoughts…

Watching Carlo Ancelotti gaze into space like he’d just been told he had contracted an STD after an office party was pure Christmas gold. Watching Essien get munched by Jack Wilshere, seeing Theo beat John Terry in the air,  witnessing a game where Chelsea barely registered a shot on target…well, it was more than the senses could take.

Last night was everything you want from a team of young pretenders. Heart, passion and fight combined expertly with balance, discipline and clinical professionalism. Sky Sports pointed out that Chelsea were bad but failed to acknowledge that we made them look bad. We were first to every ball, we were the only team to show creativity and guile and we deserved everyone of those points.

The only downside bar the goal? A new benchmark has been set. Those boys have from now until the end of the season to prove they can play like that week in week out. If they can achieve that, I’ve no doubt that the Premier League crown can come our way. It’s up to Arsene Wenger to admit to himself for the first time in his career that tactics work.

“We were disciplined, mature, we played for each other I think the first goal, as I said before the game, played a vital part in it.”

Whether it was him or the team that decided to play in a more cautious manner is irrelevant. What we know is that it gave us balance. Song played his best game of the season, doing his job going forward whilst not neglecting his duties at the back. Jack Wilshere, though not always at the races with his passes, was in the ring swinging footballing punches all afternoon. Cesc as ever was the conductor of the Arsenal Orchestra, playing deft passes and ensuring Chelsea couldn’t relax.

JD proved why he should be part of the permanent starting 11. Has he had a bad game this season? Not in my book… Once again he showed he has the talent and the head to play week in week out. A superb game. I’m pretty sure we’ve won something like 85% of our games with him in the starting line up. He hasn’t had the same chances as some of the others receive in the first team. His maturity as a player has been all the more impressive because he never moans when he is dropped and he’s made his statements on the pitch. Fair play Johann, you’ve been excellent!

I thought Theo Walcott was brilliant last night. Geoff has been banging the Theo drum for a long time, last night he did it on the big occasion, here’s hoping he can continue his clinical streak in front of goal and start terrorising defences on a more consistent basis.

To conclude…

In  topsy turvy season, we’ve put ourselves back in contention. We’re sitting pretty in 2nd with a slightly tricky game away at Wigan to contend with. After that, we have what is potentially a title contending game at home to Manchester City, then we’ve got 4 months to make our mark on the rest of the season.

I’m dreaming of a title win now, but I’m not going to get carried away. My main hope out of today is that we’ve turned the corner mentally. I’m hoping this team now knows what is required to win on the big occasion. I’m hoping we play with the shackles off for the rest of the season and maybe, just maybe, we could end the season with something prettier than dust in our trophy cabinet!

Keep dreaming Grovers, we’re back in the game!

Ratings

Fabianski – Didn’t really have a whole lot to do. Thought he could have done more for goal. Kicking was good. 7

Clichy – Much improved. We’ll forget about that dodgy headed back pass, it’s Christmas! Good going forward. 7

Sagna – Solid as ever at right back, good going forward. 7

Koscielny – At fault for the Chav goal, a touch sloppy at times, but solid otherwise. 6.5

JD – In all the right places at all the right times. A beast in the air, a threat in their box. 8.5

Song – Had a monster game in the middle of the park striking the balance between attacking and defending. 8.5

Jack – Passing wasn’t what we know it can be but his commitment and passion for the shirt was amazing. 18  years old? You’re kidding right! 9

Cesc – Love having him back in the team, he’s the best in the business. His passing wasn’t great but he was there when it mattered, as always. 8

Theo – Much improved. He’s finally mastering his power and pace. His finishing is superb. Must be a starter going forward. 8.5

Robin – A solid return to the side. He puts his foot where most strikers wont and he’s a handful. I love his aggression. 8

Nasri – A real pest all over the park. His runs are hard to track and his ability on the ball in fantastic. Top game. 8

Subs

Diaby – 7

Rosicky – 7

Chamakh – 7

Finally…

On a side note, Le Grove surpassed the 750,000 comments mark last night (Incesc  27,2010 at 22:49). Considering many of our blog stalkers think we remove comments that don’t agree with our posts, that’s a hell of a lot of people agreeing with LG!

If truth be known, you lot have helped make this the number one place to talk Arsenal football club on the net, the place moderates itself these days and I don’t believe there is a better environment to chat Arsenal, whatever your thoughts are, wherever your reside (so long as you respect thy fellow Grover). For that, Geoff and I are truly thankful!

See you in the comments!

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